HP Confirms LaserJet Printer Black Toner Shortage

For the past several months, HP partners have been unable to procure the HP-branded CE285A black toner cartridge through distribution. Sources from several major distributors told CRN this week that the CE285A toner cartridge has been either backordered or available in very limited quantities.

HP attributed the CE285A shortage to the "tremendous demand" the company has been seeing for the LaserJet P1102W and the LaserJet M1212 and said it is working to restore inventory.

"We are working quickly to meet the growing market demand for this product and minimize the impact to our channel partners and customers," George Brasher, HP's vice president of LaserJet Supplies and Volume LaserJet, Americas, said in an e-mail.

Pete Busam, "chief balancer" at Equilibrium Consulting, a Marlton, N.J. solution provider that works with HP, says CE285A black toner to fill consumables orders has been unavailable through distribution since October, and he's received no indication of when it will become available.

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Interestingly, the CE285A is listed as in stock through online retailers such as Staples.com, Officedepot.com and Amazon.com, all of which sell it for $67.99. Busam said that prior to the shortage he was paying between $54 and $56 for the CE285A through distribution.

"It just seems strange that no distributor can get them but the office supply houses can," he said.

As a result of the toner shortage, customers are finding it more cost effective to buy new laser printers and use the toner that's packaged with them, according to Busam. Staples.com currently sells the LaserJet P1102W for $99.99 after a $50 instant rebate, and the LaserJet M1212 for $169.99 after a $30 instant rebate.

"Since the backorder on toner is so high, my clients are just purchasing the printer, putting the printer in storage and using the toner. I have a customer that ended up buying six printers because they couldn’t buy the replacement black toner," Busam said. "When the laser has an issue, they will toss it and just get another one."

For HP partners like Busam who've been in a holding pattern due to the toner shortage, there's hope on the horizon: Ingram Micro began receiving HP-branded CE285A black toner on Tuesday and is working to fulfill the backorders, according to a company spokesperson.

Scott Campbell contributed to this article.